In 1975, a young, unknown director named Steven Spielberg gave birth to the modern day blockbuster and changed moviegoing forever with a simple man-versus-nature tale. Jaws, the film that still has audiences thinking twice before taking a dip in the deep blue sea, is now on Blu-ray for the first time ever. The new disc comes with an new, digitally remastered and restored picture and 7.1 surround sound, and will be loaded with both the Blu-ray as well as DVD and digital copies, so we can all enjoy a nice, terrifying shark attack on our iDevices while relaxing safely on beach.
As part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary celebration, Jaws was fully restored from its original 35mm film elements over the course of five months, where Universal meticulously balanced color, removed dirt and scratches and repaired film damage frame-by-frame. The entire restoration process was conducted in conjunction with Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment’s post-production team to ensure that Spielberg’s original vision remained intact. While that all sounds amazing, does it mean we will be seeing digitally enhanced versions of "Bruce the Shark" swimming around in the climax of the film?
Mike Daruty, SVP Universal Technical Operation, led the restoration team on the new Jaws transfer and assures us there's no Star Wars Special Edition-style digital shenanigans going on here, and that it's the same Jaws we've known and loved for the last 37 years.
"Our restoration on this title was to get back to its original intent; there's no added or removed content, there's no digitally enhanced shots," says Duruty, "It really truly was 'color it, get it to match as best as we can to what originally Stephen had done, fix the sections that we need to... produce the highest resolution image that we could, output a new 35mm negative so we had a film preservation element as well as to make prints, a 2K digital cinema version and then these great looking Blu-ray elements.'"
A great look is important to a film, but it doesn't mean anything without a great story. That's where the screenwriter comes in. Jaws co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb was initially hired to do a one-week dialogue polish on the Jaws adaptation before the gig turned into a complete dismantling of the script. The writer/actor shared with us the story of how he leaped from TV story editor to co-screenwriter of a film so big it would redefine cinema forever.
"(Steven Speilberg and I) socialized, we were friends. We saw experimental filmmaker screenings together; I acted in a couple of his television movies... when he got the Jaws script, he sent me a copy of it with a note saying 'Eviscerate it.' So I made some notes." Those notes landed the Odd Couple scribe the chance to follow Spielberg and crew out to Martha's Vineyard in the summer of 1974 to both act in and rewrite the film.
Check out this clip of Spielberg himself discussing the challenges his crew faced shooting a mechanical shark in the Atlantic Ocean, off Martha's Vineyard.
Quint's shack. His boat, the Orca. The Amity welcome sign, complete with graffiti. And Bruce the Shark. Iconic elements transcribed from the pages of Peter Benchley's novel into reality by production designer Joe Alves. When we spoke to the legendary Academy Award-nominated Art Director/Production Designer/Director, he theorized why the film still has as much bite today as it did 37 years ago: "I think the subject of Jaws made it sort of timeless... a shark attack can happen tomorrow. I don't think Steven was thinking about making a timeless movie, I think you just make a movie as best you can. It wasn't really trying to sell 'a time.' It wasn't trying to depict anything other than the fear of the shark."
On the current state of horror and why Jaws' appeal stands the test of time, Alves added, "We weren't making a horror film. They categorized it as a horror film but we were making a movie about something that exists. These things are out there."
One of the horrors that existed for the crew of Jaws was purely mechanical: The shark sometimes didn't work. Check out this clip about Bruce the Shark's mechanical issues.
The new Blu-ray not only includes Jaws like we've never seen it before, but it features the new documentary "The Shark Is Still Working," a fascinating feature-length behind the scenes look at Jaws' fabled production featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with cast and crew including Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider.
Producer J. Michael Roddy explains, "'The Shark Is Still Working' is a documentary that was made by fans of the film. It's exhaustive. It was independently produced. We wanted to tell the story of not how the film was made, but how the film impacted our culture and the legacy of the film, how today it's still such a great film. And also how one piece of entertainment that can positively influence so many -- you look at the amount of today's filmmakers that are making amazing stories themselves, that were inspired by Jaws -- Bryan Singer, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, it goes on and on."
Check out this clip from the from the Blu-Ray special features that explains some of longevity that Jaws has enjoyed:
So whether it's your first time stepping into the waters of Spielberg's early blockbuster or you're a fan who's been to Amity Island dozens of times over the years -- no one's ever seen the film like this, and the beautiful new high definition presentation of this timeless classic is sure to make us all feel like it's our first swim.
Roddy summed it up best: "Now that Jaws is on Blu-ray, I don't know what else is going to be in the Blu-ray player... for a long time." You can find the Jaws on Blu-ray Combo Pack with DVD, Digital Copy and UltraViolet in stores now. Be sure to check out some of Mr. Alves' Jaws storyboards at JoeAlvesMovieArt.com
-- Chris Bergoch